Wool Slippers: DIY or Buy

Padraig wool slippers

 

Three weeks. That’s plenty of time to crochet a pair of wool slippers for a family member. Pick up the hook and start now!

Every year, no matter what else changes, we give slippers as a holiday gift. I try to make them different each year. I have piles and piles of leftover wool, so I have my eyes on making simple wool slippers this year.

Do-it-yourself, but Start Now!

Your local yarn store can help you find the wool yarn and the wool slippers pattern. A lot of local yarn shops will not only sell you the yarn and the hook to crochet or needles to knit but teach you how to use them. Many have open times when you can just drop by and sit around knitting and crocheting, asking others for pointers along the way. It’s a busy season, and you will have a great time sharing your last-minute making with others.

Just to get you started, I poked around for a quick pattern and found a super simple pattern on MommyKnows.com for felted, crocheted slippers (Norwegian house slippers). I like this pattern because she explains why she made the choices she did, then she gives you a lot of links and videos to figure out what will work for you. No one-size-fits-all pattern here. If you can make squares then sew the squares together into wool origami, you can make these slippers in a few evenings plus a couple of wash loads to felt them.

Two weeks—no problem.

If you are a knitter, dig into the pattern at MommyKnows.com to find the knit version of the pattern that she used.

OK. Get moving. Pick up your yarn now.

Quick, I Just Want to Order Wool Slippers

Kids wool slippers by Padraig

Not interested, no time, don’t know how to knit or crochet? We’ve got you covered. At bynature.ca we sell the Original Padraig crocheted wool slippers, handmade in Canada since 1977. Every pair is slightly different.

 

We carry a big variety of colors in all sizes from newborn and baby slippers to youth and adult sizes. Drop by to pick out just the right pairs for your family members, or order wool slippers online at bynature.ca.

Padraig wool slippers

DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Sew!

Easy Sew Doll

When you see beautiful, natural cloth dolls, don’t you think “I wish I could sew”? You can! This soft baby doll with knotted hands and feet requires only the simplest of sewing stitches, and it will be done in an afternoon (or less).

If you aspire to make a Waldorf doll or a seasonal table covered in beautifully decorated gnomes, you can easily take that first step toward making your own dolls with just two simple stitches: a running stitch by hand and a straight stitch on a sewing machine. Or, you can skip the sewing machine and sew the whole thing by hand.


Why Make Natural Cloth Dolls

Babies, toddlers, and older children love dolls—soft, squishy dolls in warm, natural materials like cotton and wool. There are dolls that work well for every age. It can get expensive to buy more than one of these beautiful heirloom dolls, though, so you might want to learn to make dolls for your child.

This knotted baby doll is meant to be easy grabbed by a teething baby. Even now that they are older, though, both of my children want the dolls I make. They had to negotiate who could keep the doll you see in the photos below.

Finished knotted doll


Small Knotted Baby Doll Instructions

  • Scraps for doll body: 2 pieces 7″ square, 1 piece 5″ square, 1 piece 4″ x 2″ (OPTIONAL)
  • Scrap for doll head: 1 piece 5″ round
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Small amount of wool or other material (even scraps) for stuffing
  • OPTIONAL: rice to add weight to the doll

There are a lot of options when you are making dolls. I will mark options and make suggestions for other choices.

This doll is small enough for baby hands but not so small that it can become a choking hazard. The shape is simple: two triangles and a round head with a tall, soft hat. The knotted hands and feet will give a teething baby a hard yet secure bump to rub against sore gums.

Time: 30-60 minutes. It took me 20 minutes to make this doll, including photo taking, but I make a lot of dolls. Plan an open afternoon to make it so you can finish in one sitting.

1. Cut pieces. You will need 2 7″-square pieces for the body, 1 5″-square piece for the hat, and one 5″-circle for the head.

OPTION: If you are going to add a rice bag, also cut a 4″ x 2″ piece or two 2″-square pieces.

OPTION: Thinner fabric works really well for a knotted dolls. Cotton bandanas are perfect.

2. Trim hat by folding the smaller square in half and cutting the open edge into a curve.

3. Sew hat seam and turn. Turn edges of body fabric and finish by sewing down the edge if you are using fabric that might unravel. If you are making the doll for a baby, just make sure that there won’t be stray threads that your chewing baby might swallow. Finishing helps prevent that.

OPTION: If you use materials that won’t unravel, like wool felt, you can sew visible stitches on the outside of the hat. Cotton embroidery thread looks nice and bold against solid color wool felt.

4. As you sew, taper the edges as you reach the corners that will be knotted. I stopped the turned edge about 1″ from the corners.

OPTION: I tapered the finishing at the corners that would be tied into the knots. You can also cut a piece of fabric that isn’t square but has longer corners to make knot tying easier.

Materials
Pieces for sewing an easy cloth doll Cut hat for cloth doll
1. Four cut pieces 2. Trim hat in a curve
Finished edges for doll body Tapered corners for knot doll
3. Sew hat seam & turn edges 4. Taper edges toward corners


Prep for Body

5. Look at your pieces. You can already see the shape of the doll coming together.

6. Cut neck hole by folding overbody piece corner to corner then corner to corner again in quarters. Cut a small, 1/4″ piece off the tip at the center of the square.

7. Make sure the hold is small. If you are in doubt, cut it quite small and check that you don’t have more than about a 1/2″ hold in the center of the piece.

8. If you are going to add a rice bag, sew together 3 of 4 edges of the smallest squares. It doesn’t matter if you put pattern in or out, since you are going to enclose the rice bag in the doll.

OPTION: Many homemade cloth dolls are made with a heart-shaped charm at the center. In the baby dolls for my children, I sewed gems inside small heart shapes. I also put rice bags in the lower part of the doll (the doll’s bottom) to help the doll sit.

Doll pieces Cut neck hole for doll
Appreciate your work! Cut neck hole
Neck hole for doll  
The neck hole  


Rice Bag

9. Open the small square.

10. Pour rice in small square. Don’t add too much rice. You want the doll’s body to be squeezable. Also, you need to have plenty of room to sew up the last edge.

11. Sew last edge of rice bag. I just push the rice to one side and use a straight stitch on the sewing machine. I also rounded the corners slightly because I wanted the body not to have any corners poking out.

12. Check the size of your rice bag against the body. It should fit corner to bottom edge with a little bit of edge left to sew the body together.

Open rice bag Pour rice into rice bag
Open bag Pour in rice
Rice bag for a doll Rice bag for doll
Finished rice bag Rice bag fits body


Finish Body

13. Sew lines on underbody to create a square that will fit the rice bag.

14. Wrap rice bag in a thin layer of wool to give the body some softness.

15. Stuff rice bag into square space in body.

16. Sew up each edge of underbody to enclose rice bag and stuffing.

OPTION: You can easily make a knotted doll without a stuffed body. I wanted a doll that would be easy for a baby to grab, but this doll is much easier to make without the body steps.

17. Finished underbody will fit into overbody with the point through the neck hole.

18. The underbody won’t show other than the legs.

Sew square into doll body Wrap rice bag in wool
Sew body square Wrap rice bag
Stuff doll body Sew up doll body
Stuff rice bag into body Enclose body
Doll body pieces Doll body together
Underbody through neck Doll body takes shape


Head

19. Cut head fabric using a compact disc. It’s a perfect size for this doll. Anything round that is 4.5″-5″ across will do. For this head, I used old swatches from a friend who owns an organic fabric store. She didn’t need them anymore, and I knew they would be a great size for doll heads. This whole doll is made from scraps.

OPTION: This is the step that I simplified for a first doll. A Waldorf doll has a shaped head with chubby baby cheeks. This is created by sewing and shaping over a thin gauze then adding the top layer of skin. It isn’t particularly difficult, but there are many steps to learn when making a Waldorf doll head. Learn them! These heads make beautiful little faces for your dolls. For now, though, a ball of wool in a circle will make a fine head.

20. Wind the wool in a tight ball to make the core of the head. Take small pieces of wool and wind around many times to get a round shape.

OPTION: If you use scraps, still wind them in a tight ball to give shape to the head.

21. Place wool ball in enter of head fabric and wrap the circle of fabric around the wool tightly enough to keep it from unraveling.

OPTION: You could also stitch around the head fabric 1/2″-3/4″ from the edge with a long running stitch (a basting stitch) then pull the thread to gather the head fabric around the wool core. I like the other way because I can adjust to the size of the ball, which does change a bit with every doll.

22. Wrap thread around the neck. I went around 5-6 times very tightly then tied a knot with the two ends. This doesn’t have to look great, but it does have to hold tight.

Cut doll head Wool for doll head
Cut doll head Wind wool for head
Wool in fabric circle for doll head Wrap doll neck
Wool in head fabric Wind thread around neck


Attach Head

23. The neck on the head fits through the neck hole on the body. Just gather the flared ends of the head from the right side of the body.

24. Push the neck ends through the neck hole toward the wrong side of the fabric. The head needs to be on the bright, right side of the fabric.

25. Sew the body to the head from the wrong side of the body. I try to stay as close as possible to the neck about 1/8″ away from the neck hole. I’ve shown here just a simple running stitch: poke the needle through body fabric and head fabric close to neck, grab 1/16″ of the fabric then poke back up, skip 1/16″ from the top then take another stitch.

OPTION: If you are using a fabric that won’t unravel, make sure the neck hole is a tidy circle, and just take a visible stitch from the right side. A bold blanket stitch looks very nice.

26. Sew all around the neck hole and tie off securely.

Doll head fits into body Doll head fits through neck
Head into body Head through neck
Sew doll body to head Sew around doll neck
Sew close to tied-off neck Running stitch to attach head


Finish

27. Place the underbody inside the overbody. The long edge of the under body will be the doll’s legs. The point of the stuffed diamond touches the neck where you just sewed it through. You should be able to pin the overbody edge at the sewn lines along the stuffed portion of the underbody. Sew along those same lines.

OPTION: You can also choose just to secure the overbody at the point. This leaves a more open doll.

28. Pull hat onto head with the long, curved seam in the back. The seam should touch the edge of the body at the back with the edge angling toward the forehead. You can pin if the hat seems like it might slip off one side while you are sewing the other

29. Sew hat to head with another simple running stitch that takes 1/16″ from the head then 1/16″ from the hat. This will be a mostly invisible stitch.

OPTION: Whether or not you have an unraveling fabric, you can also use visible stitches to attach the hat. Anything from a simple blanket stitch to more fancy embroidery stitches will cover up the edge.

30. Doll finished but for knotted hands and feet.

31. Tie knots in points to create hands and feet.

OPTION: You could decide to stop at this point and leave the doll without knots.

Sew doll body together Pin hat onto doll head
Sew body Pin hat
Sew hat to doll head Doll nearly finished
Sew hat Almost finished

Finished knotted doll


Resources

DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Knit!

Knit cotton washcloth

Have you ever thought, when your friends share great projects, “I wish I could knit”? You can! I have devised the simplest knitting project you are ever going to meet to help you knit a reusable cotton washcloth.

Like the best of punk music and country music: all you need is a red guitar, three chords, and the truth. In this case, all you need to make a profoundly useful and sustainable kitchen tool is cotton yarn, needles, three stitches, and a desire to make it yourself.

There are a lot more than three stitches in all of the fancy sweaters you see, and you will probably want to learn several more ways to do each of these stitches, but one way is enough for now. Just press on, and you will be wiping up with your own handiwork within hours.


Why Make Wash Cloths?

Knitters need to knit. Once you catch the bug, you will be looking for more and more projects to knit. Knitting your own washcloths keeps those knitting hands busy, but it also saves you money and lets you create exactly the color and style of cloths that you want to use. If you were looking for the right time to replace paper towels with reusable cloths, this is a quick and easy way to do it yourself. Plus, when people say, “Where did you get these great cloths?” you can then talk to them about your new hobby: knitting.

My mother made all of our wash cloths, and I’m still using those same cloths 30 years later. These are some of my very old kitchen cloths.

Old knit washcloths

1. A popcorn pattern that is good for scrubbing
2 & 3. A flatter pattern that absorbs well
4 & 5. A nubby pattern that I think is the easiest to grip. I grab these first.


The Super Easy Pattern for a Knit Cotton Wash Cloth

  • One skein of cotton yarn (Pictured is Lion Cotton Worsted Weight because that is what my local store carries.)
  • Needles, size 7
  • Tapestry needle

Cast on 40 stitches. Work every row knit (no purl), creating garter stitch. Knit until the whole piece is square then bind off and sew in ends.

That’s it! This sample took me about an hour and a half to finish.

Handmade knit cotton wash cloth

There are a lot of fancy ways to make cloths with special stitches or crocheted edges, but I think plain garter stitch works best.

If you are new to knitting, I hope these photos will help.

Cast On
Single Cast on (or backward loop cast on) is the simplest cast on. It isn’t elegant or fancy, but it is a fine way to start. There are many better ways to get this job done. You can think about those later.
Loop for simple knit cast on Slip knot on knitting needle
Make a simple slip knot Put the slip knot on your needle and pull it tight (though not too tight)
Yarn through fingers for tension Yarn ready for knit cast on
To keep tension steady, thread the yarn through your fingers. Turn your hand palm facing you
Cast On, finish
Backward loop knit cast on Simple knit cast on
Slip your needle up your finger to get the stitch on the needle And, you have your first stitch
Knitting cast on stitches  
Repeat until you have 40 stitches on the needle  
Knit Stitch
When I taught my children to knit, I used this simple rhyme to help them remember the steps to a knit stitch. It’s a common knitting teaching tool. Under the fence, catch the sheep, back we come, off we leap. Note: in the photos, my daughter knits holding the yarn in her right hand. I knit holding the yarn in my left hand (continental style). Either works. Do what feels most comfortable.
Beginning of knit stitch Wrap yarn for knit stitch
Under the fence. Stick your right needle into the bottom of the first stitch on your left needle Catch the sheep. Wrap your yarn around the right needle from the back, around the left and to the front
Pull knit stitch through loop Finish knit stitch
Back we come. Using your right needle, pull the yarn you just wrapped back through the first loop Off we leap. Pull the loop all of the way through then off. That’s your first knit stitch. Repeat to the end of the row, turn, and knit the next row the same way
Bind Off
In this simple bind off, all you do is pass each loop over the next to give a finished appearance like a chain. It isn’t stretchy at all. You can learn many other binding off techniques that give your knitting more stretch, but this basic technique will serve you well.
Ready for bind off Knitting bind off
Knit the first two stitches on your last row Stick your left needle into the first loop on the right needle
Bind off knitting One stitch bound off
Pull the first loop over the second loop Now you have just one loop left, so knit another stitch and repeat until you have one stitch left on your right needle
Finishing
Once you finish knitting, you have just two tails to sew in for a tidy finish. I like to use a tapestry needle for this, but you can also use a crochet hook if you already have one.
The last knit stitch Pull the last loop long
Knit until the last stitch is on your right needle Pull the last loop until it is 3-4″ long
Clip long loop Wash cloth with tails
Clip the loop and pull the rest of your skein of yarn out of the loop You have a nearly finished wash cloth
Finishing, sewing in Tails
Sew in knit ends Sew knit ends into cloth
To hide your tails, sew into the loops of one row down from your binding Pull the threaded tapestry needle through the stitches
Pull cloth edge Stretch edge of wash cloth
Stretch the edge of the cloth Stretch the edge a bit more to lose the tail completely


Resources

There are a lot of yarn stores online, but you probably have a local shop. Go there and talk to the owner. Ask about yarn. Ask about favorite needles. Ask about classes. Ask about knit nights. My local yarn shop has a late open night every Thursday where a dozen or so people sit around a table knitting, snacking, and just talking. You don’t get that shopping online, so find a local yarn store.

My favorite knitting site is Tech Knitting because the illustrations are absolutely clear (and often colorful). There is a lot of information on Tech Knitting, so check the index. As an example, this is the cast-on that I most often use.

When you become addicted and need a community, consider joining Ravelry, where you will find patterns, a personal notebook where you can record your stash and your projects, discussion groups, and friends.

My mother taught me to knit when I was 3 years old. I have been knitting steadily ever since. My husband and I talked about our favorite knitting yarns the first time we met. My mother knit my wedding shawl—a wedding ring shawl, it is called, because it is so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring. (I tried. It did work.) My husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my baby, and I trekked to a knitting conference together to give the grandmothers a good excuse to spend time with their new granddaughter when she was very tiny. I taught my children to knit when they were small. Now, when we read school books aloud to one another, two of us knit while the other reads. (“Would you like to read now?” one asks. “Let me finish my row,” says everyone else.) I inherited a huge double cedar closet full of yarn, and we often, as we say, “go shopping” in my mother’s yarn closet. Currently, I am knitting dolls, my husband is swatching a new sweater, my 15-year old daughter is knitting a sweater from a 1939 pattern she tracked down after seeing it online, and my 12-year old son is knitting a cabled sweater. We are a knitting family.

I hope you have a great experience knitting this simple wash cloth. Even after all of the very complex knitting that I’ve done over the years, I loved knitting this simple piece. Let me know if you have questions.

Thanks to my daughter, the knitting hand model.

DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Make Soap!

Homemade DIY soap

Have you seen soft, milky homemade soap and thought, “I wish I could do that”? You can! The simplest of homemade soap is very easy to make because all you do is melt the base soap, add the fragrance or color you want, and pour the soap into molds. That is why this is called melt and pour soap, and this is the simplest of introductions to this simplest soapmaking.

Some will tell you this isn’t really making soap, and they’re right. You aren’t making soap from scratch, but ignore them anyway. You’re just dipping in to see if you might want to learn more. This is just the beginning.


Why Make Soap?

If all you are doing is melting soap that is already made, why would you want to make your own soap?

Savings. You can save a lot of money. Depending on the ingredients you choose and how fancy you make it, it will probably cost you $.50-$1.00 per bar of soap. If you are trying to save money, this is one more little way to squeeze a few dollars from your monthly budget. It is only a few dollars, though, so saving money isn’t usually the first reason one thinks of to make soap.

Health is an even better reason to make your own homemade soap. Replace mystery ingredients and chemicals with whole, natural ingredients like olive oil and goat’s milk. Especially if you have sensitivities or allergies to chemicals commonly included in cosmetics, making your own soap can be a way to soothe your skin.

Taste and style are easy to match when you add your own color, scent, and texture.

The best reason to make your own soap is just the pure DIY (do-it-yourself) joy of it. It feels great to make something useful, healthy, and beautiful for yourself and your family.


The Process

Basic melt and pour soap couldn’t be easier. You buy a base, melt it, add a little fragrance or color, add texture (like oatmeal for soft skin or salt to exfoliate), pour into a mold, let it cool, then cut.

You will need base soap, fragrance and color (optional), a double boiler, a stirrer (a wooden spoon will work), and a mold. A glass thermometer will also help, and you may already have that for candy making. You may also want to wear gloves. Some molds require lining. You can use parchment or butcher paper to line a square mold, so there is no plastic required.

Look for a base soap that you like. If you can buy it in person, that’s even better because you can touch and smell it to get a better idea of what is available. Olive oil and hemp seed oil soaps will moisturize. Aloe vera and honey are soothing and healing. You will have plenty of choices for natural soap bases.

When you are ready, bring the water in your double boiler to a boil then turn it to low. Cut your soap base into small cubes and add to the top pan. Stir occasionally, and be patient. It takes a while to melt.

Once the base soap is melted, add fragrance oil or essential oil. You can add food coloring, including natural, powdered food coloring like turmeric for a bit of yellow, beet powder for rich red, spirulina powder for green, or cocoa for a light brown. These won’t add scent to the soap, so you are adding it more for the mild color or decorative effect.

It is fun to make clear soap for kids by adding bright colors and little toys. Notice: I wrote “for kids” not “with kids.” More on that below.

When your soap is melted and your fragrance and color is added, pour into a mold. A juice box coated with a light layer of oil makes a great size for a small bar of soap. You can tear your mold off the soap and send it on to the recycling bin after you are done. If you don’t get juice or milk in cartons, you can buy silicon molds fairly inexpensively, and you can make your own beautiful wooden mold quite easily. Try soap making before you jump in and make your own mold, but this is a great way to bring the spirit of DIY to your future soap making obsession.

Let your soap fully dry. If you were making soap from scratch, you would need to wait weeks for your soap to cure, but simple melt and pour soap just needs to cool and dry.

Caution: whenever you melt soap, it is very hot and can be dangerous. Only use with children when you know they won’t grab for it or distract you. That probably means only making soap with much older children. Especially for your first batch, make soap when your children are not around.


Resources

Once you are hooked and confident with melt and pour soap, try cold processed soap making. This is real soap making. You use lye (caustic soda, sodium hydroxide) in the process of saponification, a chemical reaction in which the fats or oils react with the lye to create soap. You need to leave this soap to cure anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the ingredients you use. You will need more soap making and more safety equipment to make even basic cold processed soap, so melt and pour is a good way to try out soap making to see if you want to invest more time and money.

Don’t have DIY envy anymore. You can make your own simple homemade soap.

Image © Alla Shcherbak | Dreamstime.com

DIY Reusable Kitchen Towels

Reusable Kitchen Towels

Reusable kitchen towels are nothing new at all, but I only recently saw on Pinterest towels that snap together to make them as convenient as paper towels. So, I made some.

A lot of my friends create Pinterest boards with titles like “Must Make” or “DIY for My House.” I don’t know a lot of people with time on their hands, though, and I’m one of them. You probably are, too. A DIY project has to really catch my interest to inspire me to get up and do it. This is so clever that I just had to sew my own kitchen towels. I thought you might find this one of those eco baby steps that is easy to take as well.


Make Your Own Kitchen Towels

As always, I recommend you use what you have on hand. I happened to have some Harmony Art organic cotton fabrics that I had yet to find a use for. My fabrics were a range of weights from heavy twill (like jeans) to thin plain weave (like sheets). I decided that it might be useful to have wipes available in different thicknesses, so I used all of the fabrics, giving each a different color of snaps and trim to make it easier to tell the difference between weights as I was reaching to clean up a spill. For the absorbent side, I used brushed French terry that was too flawed to use for clothes but was fine for towels.

What I did takes no special skill at all. If you can use a serger, you can make towels.

  • 1/3 yard each of 4 decorative, cotton fabrics at least 36″ wide (or use the same fabric for all)
  • 1 yard of absorbent, loopy fabric to do the dirty work – cotton terry or birdseye are perfect
  • Decorative thread (optional)
  • 24 4-part sets of snaps

Wash your fabric before you start. You don’t want to make beautiful towels only to have them shrink and distort after washing. Pre-shrink to avoid this. I also ironed my fabric to make sure I was cutting evenly.

Cut 12 11″ x 11″ squares of the decorative fabric and 12 more of the absorbent fabric. I also rounded the corners to make sewing really fast.

Match up the cut squares with the absorbent, loopy side out and the decorative side out if you are going to have decorative serging that shows. You can also put the absorbent and decorative sides in, if you plan to turn and top-stitch your towels. If you want to keep it simple, just serge.

Sew each towel together.

Place snaps—two male and two female on each. I had writing on mine, so I carefully paid attention to which side had which snaps so the writing would always go the same way.

Total time for 12 wipes: 40 minutes


But What If I’m Not Crafty?

If you don’t have time or you don’t sew, how about just buying cotton towels to ditch the paper towels? My mother-in-law still uses 40-year old diapers as kitchen towels. In my house, we have a stack of old prefolds that we use as dog cloths, since I can’t quite bring myself to put the used diapers in the kitchen. New cotton prefolds make great kitchen towels because they are very soft and absorbent.

That’s what you need for spills. Nothing fancy. Just a little cleverness and a lot of absorbency, and you have washable, reusable towels, and you won’t miss paper towels.

Following up on a couple of weeks of cloth diaper focus, I’m covering other reusable products you can easily introduce into your family’s routine. Last week, it was reusable sandwich bags and wraps then DIY reusable baby wipes last Tuesday. Do you have favorite reusable products that you use? Drop by the Parenting by Nature Facebook page and tell us about it.